Posts in Fraud, Scams & Safety Tips

Car Pool and Ride Share Safety Tips

Setting up a ride share or a car pool is a great way to save money, and go a little easier on the environment. The cost of splitting gas between 3 or 4 people is nearly always cheaper than taking a bus, train, plane, or a car alone, and a whole lot more sociable. We’ve heard from Kijiji users who have made great friends and had great adventures through ride shares.

Going for a drive with strangers has different risks than buying or selling items. As always, go into a transaction looking out for your own safety, and don’t do anything that seems unsafe. Here are some tips to having a safe and pleasant ride share experience.

Ride Share Safety Tips

  • If you can, meet the other people involved in the ride share before hand. If this is not possible, ask for their Facebook profile ahead of time, and the contact info of others participating in the ride share. Take a look at their social networks, google their name if you like, and make sure they seem like someone you would be comfortable on a long drive with.
  • Get references. Preferably from someone who has ride shared with them in the past. Ask questions that verify that they are who they have presented themselves as to you. If there are any inconsistencies, consider it a red flag.
  • Take a picture of driver’s license and the license plate and email to a friend before you leave. If you feel uncomfortable asking for this information, say something along the lines of “I have a mother who is always worrying about me, she feels much better if she knows who I am with.”
    Make sure someone you trust knows when you will be leaving, and arriving.
  • Agree on rules for the road. Music preferences, whether food, coffee, smoking, or perfume will be permitted, who will be sitting where – it will cause less tension on the ride if everyone has agreed ahead of time on what is and is not permitted.
  • Don’t give too much information about yourself in your ad. Keep it minimal, listing only the need to know details such as when and where you are going, if there is room for cargo (or you have cargo that needs to be transported), that you are bringing your dog with you, and other trip oriented details that might be make or break for the other parties. Details like your gender and age you can disclose later.
  • Ask questions about driver, car. Agree on details like cost, payment, and whether any side trips will be permitted beforehand.
  • Exchange important numbers. Get the main contact details as well as emergency contact numbers beforehand with all who will be travelling with you. You never know when a medical emergency will strike, or if you will need to alter plans at the last minute.
  • Make sure your phone is fully charged before you leave.
  • Go with your gut. If the other person says something that makes you uncomfortable, don’t go with them. If they put you on edge before you even get in the car, you will likely be in for an unpleasant ride!

Want to Save Big on Electronics? 8 Ways to Stay Safe Buying Used Technology

Looking for a new cell phone, laptop or tablet? There are tonnes on Kijiji, and a secondhand model is a great way of getting the device you have been lusting after, at a budget friendly price. Staying safe is particularly important when dealing with small, high value items, so here are our tips on how to have a great transaction.

Meet face to face. Never send a seller money from your bank account before inspecting the item in person, and don’t send payment via money transfer services.

Ask for a receipt. Get the seller to sign and write his/her name and address on the back of a receipt.

Take a screenshot. Have a copy of the Kijiji ad so you have it as a reference for the transaction.

Be suspicious of a nearly-new phone being sold without packaging or accessories. If the seller can’t produce a receipt or even a charger, it could be a stolen phone. Here is how to check whether a smartphone is legal for sale.

Establish the condition of the phone. Use the phone, open a few apps, and try to find out what state the battery life is in if you can.

Don’t accept a phone laptop or device in a sealed box. As great as sealed boxes may seem, you need to be able to inspect the item. It is not hard to fake a seal on a box, so if the seller won’t allow you to take the item out of the box to test it, it could be faulty or even a fake.

Be careful of malware and viruses on a used device. If possible start with a clean slate by reinstalling the operating system or wiping the phone.

Take your time, and don’t rush into any decisions. If you see an iPhone or similar expensive device advertised at a very significant discount (even if it’s not the most recent model), then it’s probably too good to be true. Don’t pay until you have the device in your hands, and if in doubt, just walk away.

Back to School Scams to Watch Out For

With the beginning of the school year right around the corner, students are facing many transitions. Many will be looking for a part time job that will be flexible enough to hold through the rigors of exam writing, and many post-secondary students are seeking affordable housing close to campus. The urgency of the situation can make you an easy target for those looking to victimize. Here are some tips from our resident fraud experts on how to avoid falling for fraud when you are heading back to school.

Avoiding back to school scams

Securing a Back to School Job
For most students in college or university (or who aspire to go), securing an income source is a big part of what will enable the budget to balance. Finding a job close to campus with flexible hours is a popular way to add some cash flow during the year. Working in retail, finding work in hospitality, babysitting on the side, or cleaning houses for money are all options that can supplement incomes part time that work with student schedules. Here is how to stay safe while looking for work:

Guard your personal information until you know who you are dealing with. Sending a resume to a legitimate company is no problem, but avoid sending out a resume with all your contact details and address to every ad you see. When dealing with anonymous ads, have a version of your resume that doesn’t give too much about yourself away. Wait until you get a reply from someone with a company name (if applicable) before sharing your contact details. Never share your social insurance number online.

Know the average wages for the field. Job scams generally will advertise a wage that is much higher than average for positions that don’t require much (if at all) in the way of specialized skills or training. Drivers, assistants, data entry, and secret shoppers are especially popular targets for fraud. Frequently, scam artists will post ads for positions at much higher pay than average, and will be in a rush to hire without an interview.

Never pay for a job. If the “job” involves start up costs, refunding “over paid” cheques, wiring money, or anything else that involves you sending or spending money, stay away! A real job will pay you, and won’t make you foot the bill for your own training or pay up front for a uniform or kit.

Check out more job ad red flags, or learn how students can improve their resume for more information on getting a part time position.

Finding Student Accommodations
With over 2 million unique monthly visitors, the Real Estate category on Kijiji has become an immensely popular destination for those seeking short-term or long-term rentals. It can be very difficult to secure accommodations in a new city, but don’t let panic get the best of you and allow yourself to be victimized by a fraudulent landlord. Here are some tips to ensure that moving day doesn’t end in tears:

Only deal with local landlords. The majority of scam artists operate out of foreign countries. The poster behind the ad might say they’re out of the country indefinitely, or that they won’t return until after you would need to agree to the rental (and pay up).

Never wire funds. As a prospective tenant, you should never be expected to send money in advance without having met the landlord or seen the rental unit. It’s crucial to physically visit any place you’re considering renting, rather than relying on scanned photos or website links – even if the apartment is real, there can be major shortcomings that are not clear without checking out the space.

Be skeptical of especially low rental prices. Check rental rates in the same area. Often, fraudsters will try to entice their victims with low prices. If the apartment you are looking at seems to have no flaws but is considerably under the median asking price for apartments of a similar size nearby, be on the alert, as it could be fraud.

Never share personal financial information. Some may be tricked by deceptive offers into sharing social insurance information, credit card and bank account numbers. Personal information can then be used by scam artists to open new bank or credit card accounts in your name. Legitimate landlords don’t need any of this information to do a credit check.

Trust your instincts. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable or strange, the circumstances are more than likely too good to be true. Go with your gut and steer clear.

Check out more tips on identifying real estate rental fraud, how to land an apartment when vacancies are low, and how to budget for your first apartment for more information on student housing.

Avoiding Contractor, Moving, and Other Service Scams

Whether you find a service off Kijiji or elsewhere, it is important to vet the quality of the work they do before you hire them. The costs of being defrauded by a fraudulent contractor or moving company can get quite high. Here are a few tips to ensure you are getting what you paid for.

Finding the right person: Avoiding moving and contractor scams

Search the company or individual’s name and see what comes up. Read review from other customers and request a list of references they have worked for before. Past customers are the best source of information on the quality of work.

Ask for recommendations. If a friend, colleague, or family member has recently had a good experience with a company, that is worth much more than a review from a stranger online.

Get multiple estimates. If one is far lower than the rest, that is a big red flag. Remember, if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is!

When hiring a moving company, make sure you get a full written contract that includes the estimate, exactly what work you need to have done, and specifies that the price cannot be more than 10% more than the original quote. Also discuss insurance; even good movers may damage something. What sets the good ones apart is taking responsibility for damages incurred and having or helping you set up the appropriate insurance.

Be wary of up front deposits. Some services require deposits (for instance, renovation services that have to buy raw materials), but never give one without first drawing up a contract and checking their references. If possible, front any initial costs for materials yourself so you don’t have to give out a deposit. A post-dated cheque or a PayPal payment are good alternatives to cash as you have recourse if the services paid for do not materialize.

Specifically ask about other costs not mentioned in the quote, and read the fine print on a contract.

Stay away from companies with out any history. Non reputable companies will frequently change their name to avoid the bad reputation they have gained from past work. If you can’t find any information about the past jobs of the company, keep looking for a company that has a reputation they are invested in protecting. Look for markers of an established business – for instance, printed business cards, a website, an address listed. If looking for a moving service, the presence vans advertising the company name and contact information are also a good sign, as it shows that the owners have invested in their name and are thus more likely to want to protect their reputation.

Be skeptical; if it seems too good to be true, chances are, it is. Want to learn more about moving scams? The Financial Services Commission of Ontario is running a chat on how to identify and avoid moving scams today, Thursday August 14th at 1 PM EST. Follow the hashtag #FraudChat on Twitter and the FSCO Twitter account

Staying Safe While Looking For Housing

Kijiji is a great way to buy or sell a house, list an apartment for rent, or find accommodations. We do our best to keep the site clean and safe, but an important aspect of maintaining a safe site is helping users recognize attempts at scams when they come across them.

If you come across ads or replies that are suspicious, be sure to report them to our staff, or the police if the situation warrants it. Here is how to keep yourself safe from real estate fraud:

  • View properties in person. Kijiji is only intended as a community site, and you should never rent a property without seeing it, or meeting the prospective tenant first. If either party claims they are overseas, they are unlikely to be legitimate. It is common that foreign fraudsters copy listings and won’t be able to show off the inside of an apartment. If they won’t show the inside, be aware that they might not own the building.
  • When looking for rental units, be aware of photos that look very professional or that appear to be model homes. Sometimes listings for properties for sale are copied to rental listings. Be suspicious if there are descriptive passages that would only be relevant to buyers, such as when the roof or furnace was last replaced. These are also signs that the ad might have been copied from a house for sale listing.
  • Be on your guard if the photos are grainy or only show small portions of the space, such as the bathroom.
  • When visiting a property, make sure you bring someone with you, or ask for personal identification of anyone you invite into your home. Make sure you tell someone who you are meeting and where you’ll be.
  • Never send or wire money. Sign a contract, write a postdated cheque, and ask for ID of the other party.
  • Kijiji doesn’t offer any type of buyer protection or payment programs. If anyone claims otherwise or you get an email advertising these services, please forward it to spoof@kijiji.ca as it is an attempt at fraud.
  • Never give out your credit card number or sensitive personal or banking information to those you communicate with over the internet. Be very suspicious of any ads that want responses such as your age, occupation, income, gender, bank, or SIN number as these can also be attempts to steal personal information.
  • Educate yourself about common types of fraud. Be suspicious of offers for large sums of money for helping with any task. Use your common sense – if it seems too good to be true, it most likely is.